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Password protect and encrypt Palm Desktop data Apps
If you use the Mac version of Palm Desktop software, you probably know that it does not have the ability to password protect itself. That has always irked me: I can password protect the data on my handheld Palm device, but not on the desktop side? Very lame. (The Windows desktop version does have built-in password protection (but not encryption -- read below), but I can't stand to use it. It's just plain ugly software, as I suppose the Mac version would be, too, had Palm, and not Apple, originally designed it when it was Claris Organizer.)

Anyway, here's a way to get your Mac Palm Desktop data protected using an encrypted disk image (EDI) (that's my abbreviation, don't google this expecting to find something). This is nothing revolutionary, though I haven't seen it mentioned for use with Mac's Palm Desktop before (the same concept has been discussed relative to the Windows version).

Of course, you should also attempt to protect the rest of the files on your Mac by disabling automatic login and requiring a password to wake from sleep, and perhaps even setting up a firmware password to stop access via booting from an external drive or DVD. Since my G4 Mac can boot into OS9, even a firmware password can't protect it -- but enclosing my sensitive files, including my Palm data, in EDIs will do so.

Here's the non-detailed version:
  1. Quit Palm Desktop.
  2. Go to Activity Monitor, select Palm Desktop Background and Quit Process (Quit only, no need to Force Quit).
  3. Make a backup copy of the Palm folder located in your Documents folder.
  4. Using Disk Utility, create an encrypted disk image with "remember password in keychain" unchecked.
  5. Copy your Palm folder onto the new EDI.
  6. Drag the original Palm folder to the trash and empty the trash. (If this terrifies you, make another backup copy of your Palm folder first.).
  7. Command-Option-drag the Palm folder now on the disk image to your Documents folder, making an alias.
  8. Restart Palm Desktop to verify data has returned.
Now test the EDI's operation. Quit Palm Desktop, and go back to Activity Monitor, select Palm Desktop Background and quit the process. Now unmount the EDI volume (drag to trash). Launch Palm Desktop and enter the password to access the EDI containing your Palm data. The volume should mount and Palm Desktop should load with your data. Mission accomplished! Read the notes below to fix the password double-entry glitch.

Here's the detailed version:

If you've never created and used encrypted disk images on your Mac, it's very simple. I've got several all over my hard drive to protect sensitive financial files, letters, images, etc. For me, since I just need to protect a handful of files around my disk, this is an easier security approach than encrypting the entire hard drive using FileVault (which is also just a big encrypted disk image).

So, if you aren't familiar with them, read this tutorial: How to create an Encrypted Disk Image. Using Disk Utility (in your Utilities folder), go ahead and create a new EDI and name it Palm (or anything you wish, perhaps something misleading like kitten photos).

Size: Select a size big enough (with room for growth) to hold your current Palm folder found in your user's Documents folder. Select the Palm folder and press Command-I to see the current size.

Encryption: Select "AES-128 (recommended)"

Format: Choose "read/write disk image" to make a standard disk image. If, for example, you make your disk image 50MB, then it will use 50MB of hard drive space, whether or not the image has any files in it.

OPTION: To initially save space on your hard drive, you can select "sparse disk image" or "sparse bundle disk image" (10.5.x Leopard only). Read this Macworld forum thread to help you decide which option to choose. Since I have OS X 10.4.11, I chose to create a sparse disk image.

Now, save your new disk image in your Documents folder (the location does not matter, anywhere on your hard drive will work) and select a password. As the above tutorial suggested, be sure to uncheck the "Remember password (add to Keychain)" option. You will notice that a volume with the same name as your image file mounts on your desktop (if your Finder is set to show "CDs, DVDs, and iPods" on the desktop in its preferences).

OPTION: If you named your disk image file to something like kitten photos, you can rename the volume that just mounted to Palm (or any other name) to better represent the purpose of the mounted volume. The disk image file and the mounted volume can have different names -- the mounted volume will only be visible after successful password entry.

Quit Palm Desktop, then launch Activity Monitor (Utilities folder), select Palm Desktop Background, press the Quit Process button and then click Quit (no need to Force Quit). Go to your Documents folder and copy the entire Palm folder somewhere else (preferably another hard drive, a USB drive, a CD, whatever) to make a backup copy (use Option-drag to copy instead of move). If you don't do this and something goes wrong, you have yourself to blame.

Now, copy the same Palm folder to your mounted "Palm" volume. Drag the original Palm folder located in the Documents folder to the trash (make another backup copy if this scares you). Empty trash (be sure to do this). Select the Palm folder now located in your Palm volume and Command-Option-drag the folder back to your Documents folder to make an alias.

Relaunch Palm Desktop to verify your data has returned. Change a phone number somewhere or add a new note. Finally, test the EDI operation: Quit Palm Desktop, quit Palm Desktop Background process in Activity Monitor, drag mounted Palm volume to trash to unmount. Relaunch Palm Desktop. You should now be asked to enter your EDI password. Your data is now password protected (and encrypted)! Go back to your changed phone or note record and verify that the change is shown. That's it!

Additional Notes...
  1. You will notice that you can't unmount your Palm volume while the "Palm Desktop Background" process in running: The disk is in use and could not be ejected. Use Activity Monitor to quit this process, then you can unmount the volume. If you sleep your Mac instead of shutting down, for ultimate security, you may wish to do this before putting your Mac to sleep, then quit Palm Desktop. When you wake from sleep and relaunch Palm Desktop, you will again be asked for your password.
  2. You will notice that when you boot your Mac, you will be asked to enter your EDI Palm password at startup. This is because the Palm Desktop Background process is attempting to access your Palm data folder. Even if you remove Palm Desktop Background from your System Prefs » Accounts » Login Items, and disable "HotSync software at system startup" (in Palm Desktop » HotSync menu » Setup... » HotSync Controls » HotSync Options), it will put itself back into your Login Items after the next sync with your Palm device. If you use the Palm Desktop software as a stand-alone PIM only, and never sync to a Palm device, then you should be asked for your password only when you launch Palm Desktop and not when you startup (which is the way I would prefer it, but not possible when a Palm device is involved).
  3. You may receive a double or even triple request for your Palm EDI password when restarting your Mac. This is caused by the presence of both the Palm Desktop Background and Transport Monitor processes at startup. If this annoys you as much as it did me, then the solution is to turn off "HotSync software at system startup" (Palm Desktop » HotSync menu » Setup... » HotSync Controls » HotSync Options). Transport Monitor will be immediately removed from the active processes and from your System Prefs » Accounts » Login Items list.

    The trade-off is that you'll now have to manually re-enable Hotsyncing when you want to sync w/ your Palm. Go to Palm Desktop » HotSync » Setup... » HotSync Controls, and select "HotSync Enabled" when you need to sync again. If this is a problem for you, someone familiar with AppleScript may be able to write a script to automatically re-enable Hotsyncing after startup. I don't sync all that often, so this is not as huge an inconvenience for me as having to reentering my EDI password twice.
[robg adds: I haven't tested this one.]
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Password protect and encrypt Palm Desktop data | 2 comments | Create New Account
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Password protect and encrypt Palm Desktop data
Authored by: fitzage on Jun 24, '08 08:12:26AM

Wait…people still use Palm Desktop? Seriously?

I guess if you really miss OS 9 and want to get as close to that experience in OS X as you can…



[ Reply to This | # ]
Password protect and encrypt Palm Desktop data
Authored by: gvmelbrty on Jun 25, '08 12:06:19PM

Yeah, it's inexcusable and pathetic that Palm has done nothing to upgrade this app in what, seven or more years? But, it's the software that comes free on the CD when you buy a Palm or Treo, so believe it or not, many people still use it. (Though I use Entourage 2004, I think the Contacts portion of Palm Desktop has a better UI than Apple's Address Book.) ... Me, I can't wait to dump my Palm forever for a iPod Touch or iPhone. Now that the SDK is out, we'll begin to see apps that'll transform the iPhone/Touch into a first-class PIM.



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